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Mothra ate my bees!

Amy Leonard


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Louts, CA (USDA zone 7)
Crying over empty hive boxes. It appears that I have inadvertently been raising moths instead of bees over the winter - DAM IT! I smelled that sick sweet smell when I walked by one of 2 hives on our place, and indeed, no bees, not comb, and mounds of moth/larva poooo - icky! All hives in same condition -no comb or anything, just little white coccoons full of groooooosssss larva that are eating into the frames. Ick!

I have lost all my hives again this year and I don't know what to do about this invader. Over the last 5 years I have successfully harvested honey 1 time, and the bees survived that following winter and came roaring back in the spring, then petered out in the fall and by the following year I have to replace the colony again with new queen and bee kit. Other years there were other catastrophes - like a month of nights less than 20 and no rain. I am in Nor Cal (zone 7) and that is not typical - all the bees froze/starved/died - and the moth has struck before, but I don't catch it in time. What would that look like? has anyone else battles this bug on behalf of our other bugs?


What am I missing? I have read the forum here and the threads where some are able to only check on the bees a few times a year, but I am missing something because I am going from bees to none and not noticing until the none part. I am a pretty good observer and by nature notice "not normal", but I can't seem to get a grip on that for my bees.

I feel so bad that again my hives are gone. For my and my bugs. and my wallet.

I have read up some and only found reference to the month during storage of hive body and super, not while hive is occupied by bees.

much appreciated....
Amy
~all knowledge is worth having~

~all knowledge is worth having~
Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 405
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
I have decided that the books are full of it. I have decided to check my bees once a month from now on.

I can read on other beekeeping forums that people can tell when the bees are coming in full of nectar, they can tell by looking at the bees coming and going if they are queenless, yadda yadda. I cannot! To me they look like bees!

I am going to open the darned hive every month, and if it is cold out I want to open it every warm snap. Because I really hate spring surprises.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Amy - I'm sorry to hear to hear about your loss of the bees. I kept bees for several years back at our suburban place in north carolina and am starting up some hives later this spring here in southern oregon.

I have had a couple spots of trouble with wax moths, but nothing near as severe as what you are describing. It sounds like there was quite abit of wax for the moths/larvae to work on, so at some point the hive must have built up a fair bit of comb.

I've never spotted the moths from the outside of the hive, only seen the larvae during inspection, and it was just a few. Same with the small hive beetle.

There are lots of things you can do to make help your hive stay strong, but few specific things to avoid moths, that I know of. At the end of the day, it is the bees job to patrol the hive and keep out pests like moths and hive beetles. The stronger the hive, the better job they will do.

A few things that have made a difference for me in fostering a strong hive:

Start with 5-frame nucs rather than package bees.
Place the hive so that the entrance gets as early morning sun as possible thoughout the year
Plant a wide diversity of trees, crops, etc... basically the more flowering crops in succession throughout the year, the better.
Avoid feeding the bees sugar water
Make sure the entrance is wide enough during the main honey flow season so that the workers can get in and out of the hive quickly
Avoid using any pesticides/insecticides in your immediate area around the hives

I hope some of this is helpful and you have better luck with the next round. I'm curious what type of hive (Langstroth?) you are using?


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Amy Leonard


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Louts, CA (USDA zone 7)
Thank you Kae - I had not heard of the "nuc" until this year, and will not likely try to do packaged bees again. Indeed, the standard box hive, and that was becaise my husband could easily build the boxes. The info is appreciated, and I am of the same feeling that the bee's job is to protect, populate and patrol the hive, and my job is to make sure they have floral food sources. We have a varied species orchard and summer garden and more and more neighbors getting "growing", not sure how many are getting "spraying".

If I try again I will be sure to share what I hope will be success!

Thank you,

Amy
~all knowledge is worth having~
David Goodman
volunteer

Joined: Dec 14, 2011
Posts: 325
Location: Zone 9a/8b
    
  13
I lost three hives in two years - never got a harvest. The beekeeper that got me started also lost his 13 hives over the last few years.

It's simply becoming too hard to raise bees successfully. Ironically, African bees may be the answer since their genetics are tougher.


Permaculture, bio-accumulators, rare plants, tool reviews and lots and lots of gardening inspiration - a new post every day: http://www.floridasurvivalgardening.com
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3082
Location: woodland, washington
    
  52
Terri Matthews wrote:I have decided that the books are full of it. I have decided to check my bees once a month from now on.

I can read on other beekeeping forums that people can tell when the bees are coming in full of nectar, they can tell by looking at the bees coming and going if they are queenless, yadda yadda. I cannot! To me they look like bees!

I am going to open the darned hive every month, and if it is cold out I want to open it every warm snap. Because I really hate spring surprises.


from my point of view, opening the hive more often is asking for more trouble. bees put a substantial amount of energy into managing the atmosphere of the hive to be just right for them. that includes a complex mix of pheromones, humidity, and temperature. opening a hive throws all that out of whack. the bees then secrete panic/defense/stress pheromones that are attractive to several bee predators/parasites/pests. so what seems like a good way to check on the health of a hive ends up affecting the colony quite negatively.

I open my hives once each year to harvest honey, and that is all. this obviously runs counter to orthodox beekeeping management, but I'm not seeing nearly the losses that more conventional beekeepers are.

there are a couple of better options for knowing what's going on inside a hive. one is to observe activity at the entrance. find the book At the Hive Entrance for more on that. another is to build or buy hive boxes with observation windows. it's important that the windows can be tightly covered, though, or they will conduct heat much too quickly.


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tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3082
Location: woodland, washington
    
  52
Amy Leonard wrote:
I have lost all my hives again this year and I don't know what to do about this invader. Over the last 5 years I have successfully harvested honey 1 time, and the bees survived that following winter and came roaring back in the spring, then petered out in the fall and by the following year I have to replace the colony again with new queen and bee kit. Other years there were other catastrophes - like a month of nights less than 20 and no rain. I am in Nor Cal (zone 7) and that is not typical - all the bees froze/starved/died - and the moth has struck before, but I don't catch it in time. What would that look like? has anyone else battles this bug on behalf of our other bugs?


that all sounds pretty terrible, Amy. sorry.

have you considered collecting swarms locally instead of purchasing bees? apart from the price (free!) there are some other advantages. if a swarm issued from a feral colony, the queen will be naturally mated to many drones, so the colony will have much greater genetic diversity than would result from commercial queens that have been inbred for many generations. a swarm collected locally also has much better odds of being well-adapted to local conditions, including climate, pests, and pathogens.

for the occasional cold winter, you might consider hives built of thicker wood than is usual. makes them a bit heavier, but the extra insulation can make the difference between a colony surviving a winter or not.

wax moths: they're pretty gross. certainly a problem for stored comb. they aren't what caused your colonies to die, though. they just took advantage of an empty hive. they eat comb and pollen, but they don't kill bees. in a healthy hive, wax moths are kept in check, but they're pretty much always present. they can even be beneficial: the wax worms chew up comb that would otherwise become increasingly full of contaminants over time, and the bees are able to replace that with fresh new wax.

so while I can't tell you what did your colonies in, you can be relatively sure that it wasn't the wax moths.
Ardilla Esch


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 178
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
    
    3
I mostly agree with tel jetson. Wax moths usually only take hold in a weak or dead hive. If the colony is weak they can take over and stress the weak hive further until it dies.

Amy mentions a couple things that caught my eye. First you mention hives dwindling during the fall of the second year after doing o.k. during the first year or so. To me that sounds like the queen was old. It probably would have helped to raise queens that second year or replace with a purchased queen.

Second, you mention your job is to provide floral sources of food. I think this is important, but it is equally important to feed hives when there is a drought year or some other condition causes food stress. Often a hive started from a package (or nuc) won't make it through the first winter because they weren't able to build population and stores from local forage alone. A lot depends on climate, local wildflower abundance, etc. I get a honey surplus about one every six years unless I do some spring or fall feeding and make sure the queens are usually less than two years old.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3082
Location: woodland, washington
    
  52
how does one summon Godzilla? that might solve your problem.
Amy Leonard


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Louts, CA (USDA zone 7)
thankyou to all who have replied! This community is awesome and i am reassured that my bees were not eaten by mothra, but the moth took advantage of an existing issue. If I could summon godzilla I doubt he would do my bidding as a hive guard. Is anyone familar with bees and california buckeye not getting along?
maikeru sumi-e


Joined: Dec 14, 2010
Posts: 312
Amy Leonard wrote:thankyou to all who have replied! This community is awesome and i am reassured that my bees were not eaten by mothra, but the moth took advantage of an existing issue. If I could summon godzilla I doubt he would do my bidding as a hive guard. Is anyone familar with bees and california buckeye not getting along?


Buckeye is toxic to bees according to my sources.


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